south of the border

Peru, Chili, LaPaz, Mexico......who hasn't driven up and down US 31 in Indiana and wondered if they somehow crossed the border? Or driven past this sign and said, hey, we're only a half mile from Mexico!

Yesterday while traveling, uh, south, I decided on my return trip I would make a short side-trip to Mexico. I remember doing this once before-a long time ago-and visiting this little town on Old 31, now, and maybe originally known as the Mexico Road. Mexico was founded in 1834 by the Wilkinson brothers who believed its location on the west bank of the Eel River was a profitable location to start a town. All of Mexico consists of about two downtown blocks and a handful of churches that want to let passers-by on US 31 know that they are welcome.

Do you ever get that urge while driving 31 to just pull over and visit a church? Evidently some of you do because I see this marketing plan used in a number of small towns.

There was a building that clearly was a bank on the southwest corner (1914), replaced by a newer bank on the southeast corner, now converted to the volunteer fire department's training facility. There was a small, well-kept little commercial block on the northeast corner; it has a small walk-up window like an old-fashioned Dairy Queen. The proprietor of this building came out to greet me. Not many folks stop and take pictures in Mexico, I'm sure. He asked if I knew what was going on with the building across the street. I told him I was a multi-millionaire and planned to drop some significant cash into it, then I said, no, just stopped through to take photos.

The block of commercial buildings across the street (northwest corner if you are keeping track geographically) had clearly seen better days but probably best represented the wealth of Mexico's past. What struck me was the main building, the joint venture between Mexico's Masonic and Odd Fellows' Lodges in 1889. They must have gotten along better than Kiwanis and Rotarians do today. The brickwork in the top of the building was unusual and maybe the most striking feature was the wood-crafted building sign board. Typically these were made out of some form of metal-usually zinc, or limestone. But the brotherhoods of Mexico chose to create their sign boards out of wood with raised wood details and carved wood lettering. Unfortunately a great deal of the wood details are falling victim to time and neglect. All four buildings in this business block were vacant and the curious proprietor told me most of them had some level of roof failure.

I personally don't like to see any community lose its architectural identity. If Mexico lost these, how would you know you were in Mexico?


Anonymous said…
I drove through Mexico in 2007, on a US 31 road trip to explore the original alignments. I got some of the same photos as you did -- and it looks like nothing has changed in the town.

Before this was US 31, it was State Road 1. The original alignment of State Road 1 southbound turned left at the bank (400N), crossed over the river, and then headed south on 190W.
hoosier reborn said…
Nice pics. I find it curious that in the historic structures survey of Miami County, and at least once in Fulton County, old 31 is called the Michigan Road....I wonder if the surveyor just assumed old 31 was Michigan, or if they saw it in a historical document.
Anonymous said…

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